We all have that person in our lives. The one who is our first call when a major life event happens. The one who we can wake in the middle of the night without a second thought. The one whose hug is the best medicine. For many of us, our parents or our best friend serve as that person. At Proctor, the advisor doesn’t seek to replace the parent or best friend, but becomes another person for each of our students.
On August 15, incoming students will learn who their faculty advisor will be for the upcoming year. At first it will just be a name. Our students and families will look up their advisor’s bio on our website, maybe Google them or look them up on Linkedin. But quickly, this name will become so much more than a bio or resume. They will become a guide for our students through the early days of transitioning to Proctor, they will be there for a daily check-in, willingly answer the late night text or phone call, they will help plan academic courses, encourage the off-campus experience, be the purveyor of snacks, and help navigate the ups and downs of adolescence. Gradually, the advisor will become the person for each of their advisees.
A few years ago, the Ted Radio Hour featured a clip from Rita Pierson’s powerful Ted Talk “Every Kid Needs a Champion”. Pierson discusses the need for trusting relationships to serve as a foundation for student learning. As faculty, we have spent considerable time learning about the neuroscience of the relational learning Pierson champions. We have come to better understand the science behind what we have long known about the role trust plays in learning.
The relationships we seek to develop with our students at Proctor are mirrored by the partnership we desire to form with their parents and guardians. Adolescence is rarely a linear journey of growth. Instead its twists and turns test the strands of the support that surround each teenager. As advisors welcome new students to the Proctor community in the coming weeks, we begin the process of building the trust that will undergird the rest of the Proctor experience.
The start to this year will be unlike any other in the school’s history. In the midst of a global pandemic, of continued, much-needed awareness of racial injustice, in this perfect storm of challenges facing our students (and us), the role of the faculty advisor will be more important than ever. The conversations will be harder, the rollercoaster of emotions steeper. And through it all, the trust that we know sits at the core of learning must be continuously sharpened through transparency and candor. It is through these open conversations that we will be empowered to surround each student with the love and support they need to thrive at Proctor in what promises to be a most interesting year ahead.